WHILE New Delhi is quick to brush off Pakistani criticism of its human rights violations in India-held Kashmir, the fact is that when the US censures New Delhi for the same reason, such critiques sting. And when such censure is made public ahead of an official US visit, Indian feathers are likely to be ruffled more than usual.
Tweeting a few days before her visit, Alice Wells, the State Department’s top diplomat for South and Central Asia, who is due in New Delhi today, said that the US remains “concerned by detention of political leaders and residents, and internet restrictions” that the Indian government has put in place in the occupied region. Moreover, Ms Wells hoped for “a return to normalcy” in IHK.
For the BJP mandarins who insist ‘all is well’ there, this rather mild criticism from the world’s sole superpower is unlikely to go down well, and it will be interesting to see if the issue is brought up during Ms Wells’ visit.
India is desperately trying to show the world that things are running normally in IHK, when clearly this is not the case. The internet blockade has been in force for over 160 days, crippling daily life in the region. However, New Delhi recently organised a ‘guided tour’ of occupied Kashmir for foreign diplomats, an exercise that was boycotted by envoys of the EU, even though the US ambassador participated.
The EU diplomats apparently turned down the invitation because they were not allowed to meet detained Kashmiri politicians. If India has nothing to hide, why is it not allowing European officials to freely tour IHK and interact with people?
Moreover, last year a group of far-right members of the European Parliament were invited to visit IHK by Indian NGOs; the trip was little more than a farce as some of the most xenophobic and Islamophobic parties of Europe were invited to tell the world that everything was wonderful in IHK. It is hoped that the US presses the Modi regime to end the siege of Kashmir.
The communications blockade has destroyed the region’s economy and made the lives of ordinary Kashmiris even more miserable as they remain mostly cut off from the world. The brutal treatment of Kashmiris, as well as the Islamophobic citizenship law and national register, have exposed the BJP for what it is: a band of bigots masquerading in democratic garb.
Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2020